‘Kiss-in’ scheduled for Roseville Galleria

UPDATE: Westfield meets with LGBT leaders, says it will audit current sensitivity training practices
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Activists are planning a “kiss-in” at the Roseville Galleria Saturday in response to media reports that a gay couple was asked to leave the shopping mall last Saturday after a security guard told them to stop their public displays of affection. Westfield Galleria has denied that the couple was asked to leave.

According to the “Love is Love” Galleria protest page, “Galleria security kicked out a gay couple for holding hands and smooching in the mall. This is not OK, especially when several straight couples were not kicked out.”

The page invites people to meet in front of Starbucks at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 9.

Westfield Galleria issued a statement on its Facebook page Tuesday saying the mall “embraces” the scheduled “kiss-in.”

All of our customers are welcome, and all are welcome equally – including those displaying affection,” according to the statement. “We do have rules and occasionally our security officers approach customers, inform them of the rules and ask them to comply. We’re sorry for any misperceptions with regard to the incident reported upon yesterday. At Westfield, we celebrate the diversity of our employees, shoppers and community, and will continue to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for all.”

In a second statement issued later the same day, Westfield said simple displays of affection, including kissing or hand-holding, are not an issue, but in this case “the couple was violating the rules and the security officer requested the sexually explicit conduct be stopped. The couple was not asked to leave, because the conduct did stop. There is no basis for the claim that this incident was prompted by the sexual orientation of the individuals.”

Loomis resident Trisha Pickerel said she’ll be attending the “kiss-in” because in all the years she has shopped at the Galleria, she said, she has seen plenty of heterosexual couples holding hands and kissing, but she’s never seen them be asked to stop, or told to leave.

“When I found out about it, I could not understand why they were asked to leave,” Pickerel said. “So it sort of hurt me – I felt we were past that. I felt our world was past that and I was a little disgusted, so I felt why don’t we do some kind of a love, peaceful event?”

The Sacramento Rainbow Chamber of Commerce also issued a statement on the incident Tuesday.

“The rules governing the behavior of visitors to the Roseville Galleria should be equally applied to all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” the statement said, adding that the buying power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community nationwide is estimated at $790 billion.

The chamber’s mission is “to create a strong, prosperous Sacramento business community by supporting our members in building their businesses and by supporting business-positive and inclusive policies and leaders,” according to the group’s website.

“The recent incident and the corporate and community response to it indicate there is still more work to be done,” the statement concluded. “It is our hope that Westfield will act to clarify its policies governing guest behavior and work positively with our community to ensure fair treatment for all.”

Sacramento resident and Rainbow Chamber board member Joey O’Shea, not speaking on behalf of the organization, said he’ll be at the protest as well.

“I was pretty shocked, and a bit appalled,” to hear about the incident, he said. “Because I’ve gone into that mall and seen tons of people holding hands and kissing, and no one has ever told them not to do it. I honestly believe the person who did it, he didn’t do it for the right reasons.”

O’Shea said he expects the “kiss-in” to be “a peaceful show of love – just people talking about just being themselves, how we all deserve to be.”

On Friday, Westfield said on its Facebook page that it had met Thursday with leaders from the LGBT community including the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center, Sacramento Stonewall Democrats, PFLAG, Rainbow Chamber and Sierra College Spectrum Committee and Rainbow Alliance. 

"As a result of this thoughtful, candid discussion, Westfield is auditing its current sensitivity training practices to ensure there is a specific component that addresses LGBT audiences. At the same time, Westfield Galleria is exploring new and constructive ways to partner with leading, local LGBT organizations," the statement said.

"If anyone was made to feel singled out on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity at a Westfield location, we apologize. We enforce a strict zero-tolerance policy on discrimination in any form and remain unequivocally committed to maintaining an industry-leader record on issues of diversity and equality."